Of special dispensations

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Eyebrows were raised this past weekend when news broke that Antigua and Barbuda has recorded it fourth Covid fatality. From all reports, it was a 58-year-old Venezuelan who’d travelled to Antigua to effect repair work on behalf of the Antigua Power Company (APC)

Based on the reports that we’re hearing, the deceased (and may his soul rest in peace) presented a Covid-free certificate and was cleared to begin work at the APC. According to our Prime Minister, the Honourable Gaston Browne, the deceased was granted a special waiver of the mandatory quarantine period for all incoming visitors and locals. Seems, all men are created equal when it comes to mandatory quarantine, but some are less equal than some.

Anyway, it appears that the work at the APC was of such great national concern that the deceased was given leave  by those in high places to side-step our Covid existential protocols. Say what? Are we being told that the risk to our population was outweighed by whatever repair work that that good gentleman had to perform? Apparently.

Which beggars the question: are we in the business of granting special dispensations/waivers? And what are the overarching circumstances under which these waivers are granted? And who are some of the persons that have been granted these special dispensations? Nosey Parkers want to know.

Ironically, our latest Covid fatality may not have even been able to complete the extraordinarily urgent for which he came here; work that could not wait on a 7- or 14-day quarantine, and for which he was deemed so very deserving of a quarantine waiver. Sigh! Of course, if that is the case, we wonder who will now come to do that work, and if that person too will be granted a quarantine waiver? You see where we’re going with this. As the older folks would sagely tell us, “Rules are rules,” and if those rules that are set up to keep our country safe are relaxed at the whim and fancy of somebody in a high place for Mr High-Ranking So-and-So or Mrs Very Important Person, then it all falls apart. And of course, questions about  fairness and unequal application of the protocols quickly come to the fore. It is a slippery slope.

As you can imagine, many Antiguans and Barbudans are not surprised that someone came to Antigua and was not placed under a strict quarantine regime. We have been hearing anecdotal reports  that the house quarantine regime is sloppy, haphazard and arbitrary at best. We have also heard, never mind protestations to the contrary from those in high places, that locals and tourists are treated differently.

Of course, we do not believe for one blessed minute that the good gentlemen from Venezuela was the first and only person to have been granted a special dispensation. We’re not that unlucky. The law of averages suggests that this special dispensation  and sketchy quarantine requirements and enforcement, have been part of our pretentious Covid regime. He merely happened to have been the one to test positive (we understand from the PM that he may have tried to treat himself), and succumb to the coronavirus. As a result of his death, his special quarantine exemption, came to the public’s attention. Had he not passed on, the public would have been none the wiser that special exemptions are granted to those deemed deserving by the authorities.

Interestingly, a measure of the seriousness of other jurisdictions as to the rigidity of their testing and quarantine protocols, no matter one’s high estate, and no matter how supposedly critical the mission, came on our Independence Day. That was the day that our vainglorious administration decided to make a frivolous joyride to Dominica, complete with a flyover of the Independence Day parade at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium. As you can recall, it was a public relations fiasco that left a poor taste in our mouths, what with the fact that LIAT is dead broke (Cleveland Seaforth of BDO, the administrator said that he met LIAT with not a dime), and those workers who were instrumental in arranging the joyride,  had been toiling for months without pay.  Moreover, hundreds of LIAT employees are still out of pocket their severance. Sigh! But we digress. The takeaway from the chest-thumping ‘skylark’ on Independence Day was that, no matter how Very Important the Persons from Antigua aboard that LIAT flight, the Dominicans were not going to relax their Covid protocols about testing to facilitate Antiguan grandstanding and showboating. The health and safety of the Dominican population took precedence over all else. As well it ought to be.

We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of that man from Venezuela who, unfortunately, fell victim to the terrible coronavirus.  We feel their pain. Of course, there will have to be a robust contact tracing effort, not only here in our fair State, but with the airlines upon which he travelled, and in Venezuela. We wish the health authorities every success.

Meantime, we suggest that the saga of this unfortunate gentleman is a cautionary tale.  May we be guided accordingly.

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